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Artist of the Day | Upendranath T R

Upendranath T R



Mixed media

33cm x 39cm


Self-taught artist, Upendranath, was once a mechanic but today is a rising artist star in the Kerala contemporary art scene. His recent art mostly takes the form of installations, the last involving eighty kilos of recycled paper used over two months. The artist has always been one not to take his craft lightly. The works in this exhibition are from his 2007 Transformation series though link up well with his installation work as they similarly tell of his morbid fascination with death and decay. The technique is easy to unpick. These mixed media works are created with a relentlessly circling black biro pen on paper with acrylic-painted shapes beneath. The circling lines have a certain rhythm, far from random, and create a sense of volume and shape from the abstract technique through tonal variations where less circles are made. No outlines are present for the final forms making one think that there is little planning and that this is an act of art-making that flows from his very consciousness. It is an exorcism of sorts: a huge box in his studio is filled with clean empty re-fills of ballpoint pens whilst the works are full of the ink that once filled them. The lines within the works flow round the pictorial space in serpentine bodies which give the compositions an eerie, macabre feel. Upendranath may have been influenced by his childhood. A crematorium and cemetery flanked the place where he lived on either side; he remembers playing in a hearse as a child. In this manner, death has always been at close quarters and today is a key theme of his art. The titles of his past installations show this same predilection: Those who remain, Alive on E-Street, Grasping Emptiness etc.

Describing these paper works, Upendranath states: I built up these works in layers as spontaneous enquiries into a primeval instinct, drawing. The act of drawing is given depth by repetition, overlapping, and colouring. The very act of drawing goes parallel to my art works in other mediums. While at work on the drawings, [my] sense of freedom is enhanced and strengthened through intuitive responses and unanticipated results. Drawings such as these in this exhibition are therefore crucial to the artists sense of self as an artist, a reinforcement of the very essence of why he must do what he does. Each work is an enquiry into the primeval instinct of drawing, connecting him with the history of artistic creation. This idea appears to connect well with the acrylic signs delineated below the pen markings. These have the semblance of ancient, otherworldly language markings. In each work we feel like the acrylic shapes continue off the page and we have before us only a detail.

The shapes relate perhaps to the beginnings of art where the written letter derived from shorthand delineations of real world subjects. Here this acrylic paint is scribbled over methodically until they are hidden from full view; we view the forms as if under foliage in a forgotten part of a forest. It is hard to decrypt the exact meaning of the finished series of transformation works. One might suggest that they symbolically show the overcoming of traditional artistic methodology for new ritual and abstract development. The works also have a strong biological and scientific element. They seem enhanced images of nerves or cells, vessels and organs at the same time as these strange symbols from a culture alien to us. In that sense we oscillate between a familiarity of our internal world and a strange disassociation and non-comprehension of the image before us.

Courtesy of,

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